Martin O'Neill shares his view on why James McClean has improved so much for Ireland

Ireland manager also jokes that the winger is a "lunatic" when it comes to his potential as a future captain

Martin O'Neill

Republic of Ireland Manager Martin O’Neill was on hand today to launch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in Aviva Stadium

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill believes James McClean has matured as his international performances blossom.

The winger scored the all-important winner in the 1-0 victory away to Austria in the 2018 World Cup qualifier on Saturday to follow up a double from the 3-1 win in Moldova back in October. 

That makes it three goals in two games for the Derry native and O'Neill feels the player is settled on and off the pitch now which is feeding into his improved showings for country.

"James' attitude has always been terrific. I think he's taken himself off Twitter and Facebook and anything else James was on," he said, before joking, "I'd pick up the 9 o'clock news and James was in it". 

"He's settled down a wee bit, even though he's had the occasional argument with the Derry City manager over things. That's fine. I happen to agree with him on that particular point.

"I think if there's such a thing as James maturing, James has matured. I would say that very cautiously but it's been great. His attitude has been fantastic, absolutely fantastic. But it's always been like that. And do you know what I think it is? He's got himself into goalscoring positions now.

"I think that James now has come to term with a few things both on and off the field and I think that his performances have brought him to a very terrific level."

O'Neill was speaking at the launch of the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in Aviva Stadium and fielding a question from the press corps about McClean's potential as a future Ireland captain, he joked: "Oh, I think you're going far too far up the road now for James as the captain of the side...he's a lunatic!" He also added that "when James is captain, I'll be long dead".

Speaking of McClean, he is one of four players in and around the squad that are from O'Neill's native Co Derry alongside Darron Gibson, Eunan O'Kane and Shane Duffy.

He had this to say to Newstalk's Team 33 about it:

Republic of Ireland Manager Martin O’Neill and former Republic of Ireland International Keith Andrews were on hand today to launch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme in Aviva Stadium. The five-a-side school blitzes are open to boys and girls from 4th, 5th and 6th class. Registration will close on February 17th. For further information or to register your school please see www.spar.ie or www.faischools.ie.